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vellous notion, as we shall see, that a sect was afterwards founded, powerful enough to subject by degrees the Roman empire and aconsiderable portion of the globe.
On the other hand, the punishment of our hero must have produced very little sensation in the world, and his adventures must have been strangely unknown, since we do not find that any historian, with the exception of the evangelists, makes mention of them*.
tome 2. p. 221. St. Epiph. hom. 24, 28, 30. Theodoret Hæretic. fab. lib. 1.
* The celebrated Blondel, le Fevre de Saumur, and other good critics, have shown, that the passage' of the historian Josephus, where he speaks in praise of Jesus, has been visibly interpolated, by a pious fraud of Christians. This fraud is likewise very ably exposed in an excellent dissertation in manuscript by the late M. l'Abbe de Longuerue If the passage, favourable to Jesus, had been really written by Josephus, that historian could not, without being guilty of an absurdity, dispense with becoming a Christian.
The devout forgers of writings, who anciently fabricated vouchers for the Christian religion, have taken care to counterfeit, with as much good faith, two letters of Pilate, addressed to the emperor Tiberius, in which this idolatrous governor speaks of Jesus, his miracles, death, and resurrection in the same tone as the most zealous disciple could have employed. We have also a testimony as authentic in a letter of one Lentulus to the Roman senate. Although these supposititious pieces may be now rejected by the church, they were adopted by Christians in the time of Tertullian, as may be seen in his Apolog. c. 5. 21. These letters are to be found entire in the Codex Apocryp. N. T. tome 1. p. 298, &c.
In the Appendix we have given a list of books mentioned by the fathers and other ancient writers, ascribed to Jesus and his apostles, which we see no reason for regarding as less authentic than the books composing the New Testament, at present in our hands.
RESURRECTION OF JESUS—HIS CONDUCT UNTIL HIS ASCER
EXAMINATION OF THE PROOFS OF THE
THE history of the life of an ordinary man terminates commonly with his death; but it is different with a Man-God who has the power of raising himself from the dead, or whom his adherents have the faculty of making rise at will. This happened to Jesus : thanks to his apostles or evangelists, we see him still playing a considerable part even after his decease.
The moment Christ was arrested, his disciples, as we have narrated, dispersed themselves in Jerusalem and the neighbourhood, with the exception of Simon Peter, who did not lose sight of him during his examination at the house of the high priest. This apostle was anxious, for his own interest, to know the result of it. Encouraging themselves on finding that Jesus had not criminated them in his examinations, the disciples re-assembled, concerted measures, and determined, as their master was dead, or reputed so, to take advantage of the notions which he lad diffused during his mission. Accustomed for so long a period to lead a wandering life under his command, and subsist at the expence of the public by means of preaching, exorcisms, and miracles, they resolved 10 continue a profession more easily exercised, and incomparably more lucrative than their original occupations. They had enjoyed an opportunity of observing that it was better to catch inen than fish. But how could the disciples of a man who was punished as an impostor, make themselves be listened to? It was necessary to give out that their master having, during his life, raised others from the dead, had, after his own death, raised himself, in virtue of his omnipotence. Jesus bad prelicted it; it was therefore necessary to accomplish the prediction. The honour of the master and his disciples thereby acquired a new lustre ; and the sect, far from seeing itself annihilated or disgraced, was enabled to acquire new partizans in this credulous nation.
• In consequence of this reasoning, the good apostles had only to make the body of their master, dead or alive, to disappear, which, if it had remained in the tomb, would have borne evidence against them. They did not even wait till the three days and three nights in the pretended prophecy were expired. · The dead body disappeared on the second day; and thus the second day after his decease, our hero, triumphing over hell and the grave, found himself revivified*.
* The ancient framers of the Gospels have fabricated one which they have ascribed to Nicodemus. In it we learn how Christ passed his time after his death till his resurrection, his journey to hell, the deliverance of the patriarchs, the discomfiture of Satan, &c. All these details are attested by two dead persons who came purposely from the other world, to acquaint Annanias, Caiphas, and the doctors of Judea, of these events. Codex Apocryph. N. T. tomc !.
P• 238, &c.
If Christ was not yet dead of his punishment, his resurrection had nothing surprising in it. If he was actually dead, the cave, where his body was deposited, might very probably have secret passages, through which they could enter and come out, without being observed or stopt by the enormous stone with which they had affected to block up its entrance, and near which the guards had been placed. Thus the dead body might have been carried off either by force or by stratagem; and perhaps it had never been deposited in the tomb at all. In whatever manner the affair was transacted, a report was circulated that Jesus was risen, and his body not to be found.
Nothing is of more importance to a Christian, than to ascertain satisfactorily the resurrection of Christ. St. Paul tells us, that " if Jesus be not risen, our hope is vain.” Indeed without this miracle of Onnipotence, intended to manifest the superiority of Christ over other men, and the interest the Deity took in his success, Jesus must appear only as an adventurer, or weak fanatic, punished for having given umbrage to the priests of his country.
It is therefore requisite to examine seriously a fact, on which alone the belief of every Christian is founded. In doing this it is necessary to satisfy ourselves of the quality of the witnesses who attest the fact, whether they were acute, disinterested, and intelligent persons ; if they agree in the narratives they give, or in the circumstances they relate. Such are the precautions usually employed to discover the degree of probability or evidence of facts. They are also the more necessary, when it is intended to examine supernatural facts, which, to be believed, require much stronger proofs than ordinary facts. On the unanimous testi. mony of some historians, we readily believe that Cæsar made himself master of Gaul; the circumstances of his conquest would be less established, were we to find them related by himself only, or his adherents; but they would appear incredible, if we found in them prodiges or facts contrary to the order of nature. We would then have reason to believe, that it was intended to impose on us; or, if wejudged more favourably of the authors, we would regard them as enthusiasts and fools.
Agreeably to these principles, adopted by sound criticism, let us consider who are the witnesses that attest the marvellous, and consequently the least probable fact which history can produce. They are apostles -- But who are these apostles ? They are ad. herents of Jesus. Were these apostles enlightened men? Every thing proves that they were ignorant and rude, and that an indefatigable credulity was the most prominent trait in their character. Did they behold Jesus rising from the dead ? - No; - no one beheld this great miracle. The apostles themselves did not see their master coming out of the grave; they merely found that his tomb was empty ; but this by no means proves that he had risen. . It will however be said, the apostles saw him afterwards and conversed with him, and that he likewise shewed himself to some women, who knew him very well. But these apostles and these women, did they see distinctly? Did not their prepossessed imaginations make them see what did not exist ? Is.it absolutely certain that their master was dead before they laid him in the tomb ?
In the second place, were these witnesses disintereste ed? The apostles and disciples of Jesus were doubt.